By Rick Winterson
The Virgin Mary is often referred to as “Our Lady of Sorrows”. Beginning with the Prophecy of Simeon, and ending with the Burial of her Son Jesus Christ, Mary (or Miriam, if you prefer) suffered Seven Sorrows. Four of these intense Sorrows were directly connected with the First Easter weekend – Jesus carrying the burden of the Cross, His Crucifixion and Death, the removal of His body from the Cross, and His burial – all of which took place on the first Good Friday.
And now there is an Eighth Sorrow for the Virgin Mary to bear at Eastertime.
It’s the loss by fire of her Cathedral in France – the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. Notre Dame might be the most famous Church in all of Christendom, perhaps more famous than St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. And it was an astonishingly beautiful Church as well – a perfect example of late Medieval art and architecture.
The fire burnt so fiercely that, despite more than 500 firefighters on the scene, much of the Cathedral was damaged beyond salvaging. The spire has collapsed; more than half of the roof has burnt away. Only the façade with its two sturdy stone bell towers remains essentially untouched. Relics such as the Crown of Thorns have been saved. The exact condition of Notre Dame’s three divinely inspired rose windows is uncertain.
The veneration of Mary as “Our Lady of Sorrows” originated in the 12th Century (the 1100s). The construction of Notre Dame began in the 1100s, too – 1163, to be exact. That is a coincidence, of course, but there are those who believe that coincidences are really God’s way of sending us messages, without letting us know they came from Him.
Notre Dame was finally completed in 1345, some 282 years later. Over nearly three centuries, a spire and a squadron of flying buttresses had been added to the original design. It was not unusual back then for a skilled workman to spend his entire life on a single sizable building. That included bringing up and training his sons and grandsons to carry on his particular craft on that same building.
Now, France is a secular nation if there ever was one, but there isn’t a French person anywhere who hasn’t gone into mourning this week – during Holy Week, yet. France’s Easter this year will certainly be a sad one. The French people take an enormous (and justifiable) pride in their country’s historic landmarks like Notre Dame.
We certainly hope that you enjoy a Happy Easter here in South Boston, despite the tragic fire in Paris. Best wishes to everyone who hopes for a Joyful Passover, also. After all, the Last Supper was a Pesach Seder. And do you realize that the tragic Notre Dame fire presents all of us with a unique way to observe Easter in this Year of Our Lord 2019?
So we’re going to make a suggestion on how to observe Easter this Sunday: Already, donations to reconstruct Notre Dame are pouring in from all over the world. We have heard that plans are being made to rebuild Notre Dame in just five short years. Please consider making your own Easter donation to the Notre Dame project this coming Sunday. Maybe it’s one, small way you can spread a little sunshine over what is predicted to be rainy Easter weekend here in South Boston. Mary will thank you for your help in lifting the Eighth Sorrow from her saintly shoulders. Remember, she also experienced four great joys from Easter to Pentecost. And have a very Happy Easter yourself.